With his DeMatha Catholic High School football team clinging to a single-score lead and trying to stop a fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Cameron Phillips intercepted a pass and stayed focused on the green turf ahead of him.
He raced past the crowd of Our Lady of Good Counsel players in his immediate vicinity.
He raced past the speedier would-be tacklers chasing frantically.
He raced past future Virginia Tech teammate Kendall Fuller, the Good Counsel alumnus who watched from mere feet away on his alma mater’s sideline.
“I was just looking for the end zone,” Phillips said.
Ultimately, Phillips’ 96-yard third-quarter pick-six left DeMatha’s recent Good Counsel woes in the dust.
DeMatha beat Good Counsel, 21-0, Friday to end a four-game losing streak in the rivalry, the most recent setback coming in the last season’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game.
“It was something that needed to be done,” DeMatha coach Brooks said. “We don’t like to say that there are must-win games, but for us, it was a must-win game.”
Good Counsel has won the last four WCAC titles, wrestling away the conference’s crown from DeMatha, which had won six straight league titles prior. Though DeMatha didn’t end Good Counsel’s WCAC winning streak — Gonzaga snapped it last week at 22 games — the victory made an emphatic point.
“We want to take the WCAC back where it belongs, which is DeMatha Football,” DeMatha linebacker JaWhaun Bentley said. “We definitely like playing our type of football. We don’t want to adjust to Gonzaga, all those teams, Good Counsel, teams like that. We just want to come out and play our ball.”
Bentley said DeMatha Football is defined by being “hard-nosed,” and it definitely was Friday night. But this game was also defined by DeMatha’s big plays, Phillips’ and one each by Wisconsin recruits Taiwan Deal and Chris Jones.
Deal ran 95 yards for the final touchdown, scoring on DeMatha’s first play of the fourth quarter. Jones caught a 75-yard pass to set up DeMatha’s first-quarter touchdown, a 9-yard pass from John Lovett to Lorenzo Harrison.
Making the win sweeter was that no DeMatha player was on the team in 2010, when DeMatha last beat Good Counsel.
In 2011, Brooks used a sophomore-heavy lineup with an eye toward this season. In 2012, DeMatha showed significant progress by reaching the WCAC title game, but at that time, Brooks said a championship was the goal.
Brooks reiterated that goal Friday, but all the players appreciated overcoming the bugaboo in front of them.
“Talking about it for four years — ‘Good Counsel is so great, Good Counsel this and that,’” Deal said, “Coming out and beating them 21-0 is a huge accomplishment for the 2014 class and the whole DeMatha community.”
The potential DeMatha community was on hand Friday, too.
Brooks “rolled the dice” and invited several youth teams to watch the game from the DeMatha sideline at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex.
“People want to see DeMatha-Good Counsel, and many of these guys, they’ll be considering both programs,” Brooks said. “So, we wanted to bring them out and show them that we have a pretty good program.”
With both teams attempting to remain among the WCAC elite for the considerable future, Good Counsel must address its immediate outlook after falling to 0-2 in the conference and 3-3 overall.
“They won’t quit,” Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy said of his players. “They’ll keep trying. We’re just going to try to get healthy by the end of the year and hopefully get in those playoffs and see if we can have a crack at a couple of these teams.”
Before the season, Brooks said Good Counsel was the league favorite “until someone proves that they can knock them off.” Friday, Brooks wouldn’t declare DeMatha (5-1 overall, 2-0 WCAC) the new favorite, citing Gonzaga, Bishop McNamara, Bishop O’Connell and St. John’s in what might be a wide-open WCAC.
But that doesn’t diminish this step of the process.
“Good Counsel has been the gauge for so long,” Brooks said, “So to finally get over that hump and get back to playing DeMatha football felt good.”
DeMatha 21, Good Counsel 0
Good Counsel (3-3) 0 0 0 0 — 0
DeMatha (5-1) 7 0 7 7 — 21
D — Lorenzo Harrison 9 pass from John Lovett (Mac Burke kick)
D — Cameron Phillips 96 interception return (Mac Burke kick)
D — Taiwan Deal 95 run (Mac Burke kick)
DeMatha — Taiwan Deal 12-129, Mark Allen 9-32, Lorenzo Harrison 4-12, Cameron Phillips 1-4, Chris Jones 1-0, John Lovett 5-(-7).
Good Counsel — Perry Stefanelli, Chris Dawson 10-35, Andres Castillo 2-10, C.J. Carroll 2-8, Bryan Strittmatter 1-4.
DeMatha — John Lovett 8-17-140-0
Good Counsel — Andres Castillo 4-20-32-1, Bryan Strittmatter 2-4-21-0.
DeMatha — Chris Jones 3-85, Cameron Phillips 2-26, Greyson Torain 2-20, Lorenzo Harrison 1-9.
Good Counsel — Keon Paye 3-20, Chris Dawson 1-16, Myles Robinson 1-11, 16 C.J. Carroll 1-6.